Review by Robinne Weiss
Frankie N. Stein wants to be a famous inventor, but her inventions only get her into trouble. Her monster tomato named Martie grows to the size of a beach ball and terrorises the school, her shrink ray is confiscated by the teacher, her Homeworkulator decides it doesn’t like doing homework, her Megadron hot air balloon monster eats children…But these setbacks only spur Frankie to more wild ideas.
The Frankie Files is a collection of what are essentially journal entries written by a precocious, nerdy girl. Frankie’s voice is distinct, strong, and full of dry humour, though her thought processes are decidedly those of a child—don’t look for coherence or logic in the mind of a six year-old. As in many children’s books, most of the adult characters in The Frankie Files are simply impediments to Frankie’s brilliant ideas. All except one mysterious woman, Ms Xavier, who shows up from time to time to enable and encourage Frankie in her creative scientific pursuits.
The Dragon Slayer’s Son, by Robinne Weiss
Review by Mike Reeves-McMillan
found this YA/MG story fresh and well executed. The New Zealand setting was well conveyed – not only the landscape, but cultural references, and the generally cooperative and helpful vibe among the characters. Not that there weren’t antagonists – there definitely were, and there was conflict and tension, and conflict even within the team at times – but the general feeling was that any new person you met was more likely to be friendly and helpful than not. Also, the main character wasn’t ever formally appointed as the leader, and for a long time the group didn’t appear to have (or need) a leader, making decisions by informal consensus. This is very much Kiwi culture.
I appreciated that the kids, even the boys, didn’t feel the need to be emotionless and staunch, and that the losses they’d all suffered were treated realistically and shown to matter. The central group were well drawn, clearly distinct from one another, and all brought important contributions to the table; all of them stepped up when needed, even whiny Ella. I also appreciated that there were two girls in the core team, who were very different from one another, and two people of non-European ancestry.
The kids were believable as kids, and the actions they took were also believable as things (unusually heroic and sensible) kids could and would do.
There were a couple of big challenges to my suspension of disbelief, but I don’t know if they’d bother the main target audience of middle-grade readers. Firstly, that the existence of dragons up to 30 metres long has been successfully hidden up to the present day, and secondly, that dragon-slayers only get trained once their parents die (and are sent to training as soon as their dragon-slayer parent dies). The latter seemed to be in there not because it made any sense as a rule in itself, but simply to set up the scenario of the dragon-slayer school and the characters being sent there. But everything else was so well done and flowed so well that I was willing to overlook that one.
The ecological thread is strong and clear without being preachy. Overall, highly recommended.
I received a copy of this book for review through the SpecFicNZ review programme.